"The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chapter 1

Nick Carraway rents a summer house in Long Island where he befriends his mysterious neighbor Jay Gatsby, a self-made millionaire who hides behind an extravagant and decadent lifestyle.

Here are links to all our word lists for the novel: Chapter 1, Chapters 2-3, Chapters 4-5, Chapters 6-7, Chapters 8-9
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definitions & notes only words
  1. reserved
    marked by self-restraint and reticence
    He didn't say any more but we've always been unusually communicative in a reserved way, and I understood that he meant a great deal more than that.
  2. privy
    informed about something secret or not generally known
    The abnormal mind is quick to detect and attach itself to this quality when it appears in a normal person, and so it came about that in college I was unjustly accused of being a politician, because I was privy to the secret griefs of wild, unknown men.
  3. feign
    give a false appearance of
    Most of the confidences were unsought--frequently I have feigned sleep, preoccupation, or a hostile levity when I realized by some unmistakable sign that an intimate revelation was quivering on the horizon--for the intimate revelations of young men or at least the terms in which they express them are usually plagiaristic and marred by obvious suppressions.
  4. levity
    a manner lacking seriousness
    Most of the confidences were unsought--frequently I have feigned sleep, preoccupation, or a hostile levity when I realized by some unmistakable sign that an intimate revelation was quivering on the horizon--for the intimate revelations of young men or at least the terms in which they express them are usually plagiaristic and marred by obvious suppressions.
  5. tolerance
    willingness to respect the beliefs or practices of others
    And, after boasting this way of my tolerance, I come to the admission that it has a limit.
  6. riotous
    unrestrained by convention or morality
    When I came back from the East last autumn I felt that I wanted the
    world to be in uniform and at a sort of moral attention forever; I
    wanted no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the
    human heart.
  7. scorn
    lack of respect accompanied by a feeling of intense dislike
    Only Gatsby, the man who gives his name to this book, was exempt from my reaction--Gatsby who represented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn.
  8. elation
    a feeling of joy and pride
    No--Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men.
  9. solemn
    characterized by a firm belief in your opinions
    I was rather literary in college--one year I wrote a series of very solemn and obvious editorials for the "Yale News"--and now I was going to bring back all such things into my life and become again that most limited of all specialists, the "well-rounded man."
  10. epigram
    a witty saying
    This isn't just an epigram--life is much more successfully looked at from a single window, after all.
  11. reproach
    a mild rebuke or criticism
    His family were enormously wealthy--even in college his freedom with money was a matter for reproach--but now he'd left Chicago and come east in a fashion that rather took your breath away: for instance he'd brought down a string of polo ponies from Lake Forest.
  12. supercilious
    having or showing arrogant superiority to
    Now he was a sturdy, straw haired man of thirty with a rather hard mouth and a supercilious manner.
  13. fractious
    stubbornly resistant to authority or control
    His speaking voice, a gruff husky tenor, added to the impression of fractiousness he conveyed.
  14. wistful
    showing pensive sadness
    We were in the same Senior Society, and while we were never intimate I always had the impression that he approved of me and wanted me to like him with some harsh, defiant wistfulness of his own.
  15. reciprocal
    concerning each of two or more persons or things
    Her grey sun-strained eyes looked back at me with polite reciprocal curiosity out of a wan, charming discontented face.
  16. wan
    deficient in color suggesting physical or emotional distress
    Her grey sun-strained eyes looked back at me with polite reciprocal curiosity out of a wan, charming discontented face.
  17. compel
    force somebody to do something
    Before I could reply that he was my neighbor dinner was announced; wedging his tense arm imperatively under mine Tom Buchanan compelled me from the room as though he were moving a checker to another square.
  18. unobtrusive
    not undesirably noticeable
    Sometimes she and Miss Baker talked at once, unobtrusively and with a bantering inconsequence that was never quite chatter, that was as cool as their white dresses and their impersonal eyes in the absence of all desire.
  19. complacency
    the feeling you have when you are satisfied with yourself
    There was something pathetic in his concentration as if his complacency, more acute than of old, was not enough to him any more.
  20. extemporize
    perform or speak without preparation
    She was only extemporizing but a stirring warmth flowed from her as if her heart was trying to come out to you concealed in one of those breathless, thrilling words.
  21. subdued
    in a softened tone
    A subdued impassioned murmur was audible in the room beyond and Miss Baker leaned forward, unashamed, trying to hear.
  22. hardy
    invulnerable to fear or intimidation
    I couldn't guess what Daisy and Tom were thinking but I doubt if even Miss Baker who seemed to have mastered a certain hardy skepticism was able utterly to put this fifth guest's shrill metallic urgency out of mind.
  23. turbulent
    characterized by unrest or disorder or insubordination
    I saw that turbulent emotions possessed her, so I asked what I thought would be some sedative questions about her little girl.
  24. sedative
    tending to soothe or tranquilize
    I saw that turbulent emotions possessed her, so I asked what I thought would be some sedative questions about her little girl.
  25. contemptuous
    expressing extreme scorn
    I knew now why her face was familiar--its pleasing contemptuous expression had looked out at me from many rotogravure pictures of the sporting life at Asheville and Hot Springs and Palm Beach.
  26. anon
    (old-fashioned or informal) in a little while
    "I will. Good night, Mr. Carraway. See you anon."
  27. libel
    a false and malicious publication
    "That's right," corroborated Tom kindly. "We heard that you were engaged."
    "It's libel."
    Nick uses the word libel here to be funny and to emphasize that he is not ready for marriage.
  28. peremptory
    offensively self-assured or exercising unwarranted power
    Something was making him nibble at the edge of stale ideas as if his sturdy physical egotism no longer nourished his peremptory heart.
  29. bellows
    a mechanical device that blows a strong current of air
    The wind had blown off, leaving a loud bright night with wings beating in the trees and a persistent organ sound as the full bellows of the earth blew the frogs full of life.
  30. intimation
    an indirect suggestion
    But I didn't call to him for he gave a sudden intimation that he was content to be alone--he stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and far as I was from him I could have sworn he was trembling.
    Nick's descriptions show how observant he is--not only does he pick up on "intimations," he also sees things that are almost "imperceptible," hears murmurs that have been "subdued," and often tries to guess what others are thinking and feeling.

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